Handsome, clever, and full of potential, Friends has yet to hit the mark but should mature well.
by on August 11, 2011
Friends is on a mission of consolidation, and its one that makes sense; why use a bunch of apps to keep in touch when one could do the job? Friends pulls together Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace (an odd choice) and your phone’s existing contact book to give you immediate access to all of your, er, friends. Clever.
Friends boasts some clear benefits. A key one is its mixing of messages; the Posts screen blends your Timelines into a single stream, blurring the line between services and plain communication. Friends isn’t about being a Facebook client or a Twitter app: it’s about talking, and making it easy. The combination is odd at first because the interface doesn’t make it entirely clear where each post comes from; services are nestled away in a Lists screen, if the single tap it takes to find out is too much trouble.
Separately accessed timelines extract recent photos and videos from your main stream, and Friends copes well with displaying media. View a Facebook photo and you can quickly flick through other images in the associated album, for instance, or pull up a YouTube clip and Friends preloads the page so you can watch it quickly.
The theme of consolidation is carried over to your contacts list, of which Friends makes a good stab at improving. The most noticeable difference is that you can choose to see chums from each of your social media accounts as well as your phonebook, complete with profile photo, and tap them to be taken to an exceptionally designed tabbed page detailing their profiles and posts.
Anything you add or alter within Friends is reflected elsewhere, be it online or in your local address book. In theory, Friends should also recognise Facebook contacts that are also in your phone’s contacts list and mix that information together, although that didn’t happen with our nickname-filled phonebook.
There are still things that would make Friends better. Support for multiple Twitter accounts and a few more sites, for a start; subscriptions to frequently social services such as Flickr and YouTube are absent, and mixing blogs into the Timeline view would be good. Having that Timeline view stay where it is when it updates, rather than pinging your view all over the place, is much needed.
A bit more in-house processing would be nice, too. Checking out a Facebook event, for example, takes you to its web page rather than some integrated reply system, and you’re not given the choice of picture host if you want to put an image up on Twitter. Our test image went up on postmanapp.com and ended up rotated and scaled incorrectly, so this is an area ripe for improvement.
It would also be good to see more interaction between Friends and your phone’s core features, but this is something that can’t happen because of Apple’s app rules. You’ll want to manage all your contacts in Friends’ gorgeous interface, and you can’t.
The API restrictions mean Friends’ phone section is pretty bare, too. It keeps a record of the calls you’ve made through Friends, but doesn’t link in to the calls you’ve made elsewhere. Once you’re done talking, you’re dumped back into the default phone app. So why use Friends at all?
Use it because it’s exceptionally pretty. Use it because it integrates Instapaper, saving any interesting links for when you’ve got time to read them. Use it because we’re positive that Taptivate are going to turn it in to an absolutely essential app in a couple of versions time. We wouldn’t call it essential yet, but it’s getting there.
Best iPhone apps | Apple iPhone 4 Ultimate Guide
Review courtesy of Tap!